|Born||June 22, 1958 (age 60)|
|Occupation||Historian, University Lecturer|
Somsak Jeamteerasakul (Thai: สมศักดิ์ เจียมธีรสกุล; RTGS: Somsak Chiamthirasakun) is a former history lecturer at the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Thammasat University. His academic field is contemporary political history and he's especially interested in recent Thai history, starting from 1930 onward. He is a notable critic of Thailand's monarchy and its lèse majesté law.
Somsak Jeamteerasakul was born on June 22, 1958. He graduated from secondary school at Suankularb Wittayalai School and Thammasat University. Somsak is interested in politics since he was a student representative during his secondary education. He was a student leader and present at the campus during the 6 October 1976 Thammasat University massacre. He was arrested and later spent two years in jail.
Somsak Jeamteerasakul earned a Ph.D. degree from Monash University. His doctoral thesis "The communist movement in Thailand" was published in 1991. During the 1990s and early 2000s Somsak wrote extensively and critically about the role of the monarchy. He has been openly critical of both Rama VII and Rama IX both of whom Somsak perceives as having obstructed the development of democracy in Thailand. Royalist groups have accused him of trying to "overthrow the monarchy". Somsak has denied the accusation in a press statement in which he explicitly states, "Each and every one of my public statement and written work is premised on the assumption of the continuation of the monarchy."
He lives in self-imposed exile in France since 2014 Thai coup d'état. He fled Thailand after being summoned by the military junta's National Council for Peace and Order, because of violent attacks and because he was facing an arrest over lèse majesté charges. The government of France granted Somsak and other lèse majesté suspects a refugee status in 2015.
Criticism of Monarchy
In 2010 Somsak Jeamteerasakul posted eight proposals to change Thailand's monarchy. One of the suggestions called for removing an article from Thailand's constitution that speaks of the king as “enthroned in a position of revered worship”. Another proposal calls for abolishing “one-sided public relations and educational activities related to the monarchy.” Somsak advocates the abolition of Privy Council of Thailand and abolition of Crown Property Bureau, which has been estimated to hold US$37 billion or more in assets and according to Thai law can be spent "at the king's pleasure." Somsak also advocates the abolition of article 112 of Thailand's criminal code, the lèse-majesté law, which he described as: "against the principles of democracy and even against common sense. You cannot regard the monarchy as always right all the time.”
Somsak’s 8-point proposal to reform Thailand's monarchy:
- Repeal Section 8 of the Constitution, [which says the King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated and no person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action.]
- Repeal Section 112 of the Criminal Code
- Abolish the Privy Council
- Repeal the 1948 Crown Assets Management Act
- Ban all one-sided public relations and education about the monarchy
- Revoke the royal prerogative in expressing political opinions
- Revoke the royal prerogative in all royal projects
- Ban all donations for use at the royal discretion
Criticism of Bhumibol Adulyadej
Somsak Jeamteerasakul has been critical of Bhumibol Adulyadej for his role in Thammasat University massacre. Somsak argues Bhumibol's involvement in drumming up anti-communist hysteria and his support of far-right royalist paramilitaries makes him partly responsible of the brutal beatings, rape and murder of the students on the day of the massacre.
Since 2014 Military Coup
After the 2014 Thai coup d'état and military junta's established National Council for Peace and Order, Somsak Jeamteerasakul was one of the first academics who were summoned to receive what the military called "attitude adjustment". After refusing to comply with the summon, the military junta issued an arrest warrant for Somsak and revoked his passport. During this period, Somsak went into hiding and later confirmed he hadn't lived in his house since the February 2014 gun attack. He reappeared on social media again in November 2014. He said to have changed his place of stay frequently during this period. It was later confirmed that Somsak had fled to France.
Somsak explained his self-imposed exile by writing: "In the situation that individuals who severely violated the laws have installed themselves as rulers of the country by illegal means, and aimed to cause harm to my life, body, and liberty in such a direct manner, I regard it as the rights and duty of a bureaucrat, citizen, and member of the Thammasat community to disobey, oppose, and reject their effort to jail and harm me."
In July 2015 the Thai military junta made an extradition request for Somsak and other critics of the monarchy living in France. The government of France granted Somsak and other lèse majesté suspects a refugee status during 2015.
Status at Thammasat University
In February 2015, Somkit Lertpaithoon, the Rector of Thammasat University, signed an order to end the employment of Somsak Jeamteerasakul. Thammasat University lecturers publicly criticized the decision as unfair and politically motivated. Thammasat economist Associate Professor Pichit Likitkijsomboon said: "It’s apparent that university administrators are ready to use legal means to threaten those who have differing political opinions". “One can look at it as an attempt to set an example for other [academics] who come out to make a [pro-democracy] move. It’s likely about his political stance,” Thammasat political scientist Pongkwan Sawasdipakdi said.
The rector defended the decision as not politically motivated but because Somsak had failed to show up to work for 15 consecutive days. Somsak responded that he had attempted to seek for a sabbatical leave and then offered to resign his position but both of these requests were denied. University administrators stated that while they did receive Somsak's letter of resignation it should have been submitted 15 days prior to his departure under university's regulations.
The administrative court ruled on July 2016 that the termination of Somsak from his position at the Thammasat University was illegal. The court commented in its decision that Somsak had "extraordinary reasons" that prevented him from resigning his position at the university. Termination from his university position would have meant a loss of pension and other benefits gained over a career of over 20 years.
Lèse Majesté Complaints
In May 2011, Royal Thai Army filed a lèse majesté complaint against Somsak Jeamteerasakul with regards to an open letter he had written and published on the Internet in response to princess Chulabhorn's TV interview. In the open letter, Somsak criticized the princess for attending the funeral of a pro-monarchy demonstrator in 2008 but not mentioning in her interview the deaths of anti-government protesters in 2010 Thai military crackdown. Somsak denied the lèse majesté charge and argued that the article 112 of Thailand's criminal code, dealing with lèse majesté, only applies to the king, queen, heir-apparent, and regent.
In 2014 Thai military junta reportedly filed another lèse majesté complaint against Somsak. In response to military junta's lèse majesté accusations, Somsak wrote: "It is clear that I would never have the opportunity to be treated fairly in accordance with the laws. Therefore, I have the legitimate right to preserve my life, body, and liberty by refusing to allow the military junta, who committed the treasonous act of seizing power, to arrest and harm me under the excuse of lese majeste."
In February 2016 Royal Thai Police was reported to be investigating statements made by Somsak Jeamteerasakul in a 2013 TV interview as possible lèse majesté violations. In the interview Somsak expressed his opinion that the Thai royal family's influence and power exceeds that of a modern constitutional monarchy.
Somsak's followers on social media have been summoned and questioned by the military junta. Thailand's Technology Crime Suppression Division has informed them that sharing or liking content from Somsak Jeamteerasakul may constitute a lèse majesté offence.
- "Thammasat Dismissed Somsak Jeam Unfairly, Judge Agrees". Khaosod English.
- "Thammasat lecturers rage over Somsak's dismissal". The Nation.
- Pravit Rojanaphruk. "The Will to Remember: Survivors Recount 1976 Thammasat Massacre 40 Years Later". Khaosod English.
- The Oxford History of Historical Writing: Volume 5: 1945 to the Present. OUP Oxford. May 5, 2011. ISBN 978-0-19-922599-6.
- Jeamteerasakul, Somsak (1991). The communist movement in Thailand (Ph.D. thesis). Monash University. OCLC 64068943.
- "อ.สมศักดิ์อัดทักษิณผิดสัญญามวลชน". โพสต์ทูเดย์. 2013-11-04. Retrieved 2015-02-26.
- "Somsak's press statement". Prachatai English.
- "Embattled academic Somsak Jeam back on Facebook, hints at self-exile". Prachatai English.
- "Laws Academics Condemn Attack At Historian's House". Khaosod English.
- "France grants refugee status to Thai political exiles". Prachatai English.
- Thomas Fuller. "The Fallout for Chiding the Royals in Thailand". New York Times.
- "NBT news on Somsak Jeamteerasakul". Prachatai English.
- The Open Society and Its Enemies in East Asia: The Relevance of the Popperian framework. Routledge. 2014. ISBN 978-0-415-73923-8.
- "Thammasat University Expels Monarchy Critic Living in Exile". Khaosod English.
- "Thai Minister Asks French Diplomat to Extradite Lese Majeste Suspects".
- "Exiled academic Somsak wins lawsuit against Thammasat University". Prachatai English.
- "Somsak charged for articles about Princess interview". Prachatai English.
- "Junta Accuses Exiled Historian of 'Distorting Facts' About Lese Majeste". Khaosod English.
- Teeranai Charuvastra. "Monarchy Critic Faces Charge for 2013 Interview". Khaosod English.
- "Exiled academic Somsak may face more lèse majesté charges". Prachatai English.
- "Authorities intimidate Facebook followers of exiled monarchy critic". Prachatai English.